Name: Di Reyes Ibanez i001p
Rank/Branch: Sergeant/US Marine Corps
Unit: Company A, 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion,
3rd Marine Division
Khe Sanh, South Vietnam
Date of Birth: 19 June 1941 Cavite, Philippine Islands
Home of Record: San Diego, CA
Date of Loss: 05 June 1967
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 163800N 1064700E (XD905399)
Click coordinates to view maps
Status in 1973: Missing in Action
Category: 2
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: Ground
Other Personnel In Incident: (none missing)


SYNOPSIS: In early-1967, Marine reconnaissance patrols in northwestern South Vietnam were hair-raising, fearsome experiences, with almost as much time spent across the border in Laos as in Vietnam. It was policy that reconnaissance personnel were periodically sent from their bases in Vietnam to Okinawa to integrate new replacements into the unit so all members would operate cohesively once they returned to combat. However, the training for Sgt. Di Ibanez's unit was cut short due to the battles at Khe Sanh. This loss of training time in the hills and jungles of Okinawa was a significant loss of experience for the replacements, and Sgt. Ibanez. Although he could quickly answer nearly every question with a book-type answer concerning Marine tactics, Ibanez was lacking practical jungle experience.

The North Vietnamese used Route 9 as an extension of the Ho Chi Minh Trail in South Vietnam as the infiltrated troops eastward toward Hue City and DaNang. When North Vietnam began to increase its military strength in South Vietnam, NVA and Viet Cong troops again intruded on neutral Laos for sanctuary, as the Viet Minh had done during the war with the French some years before. This border road that ran along eastern Laos was used by the Communists to transport weapons, supplies and troops from North Vietnam into South Vietnam, and was frequently no more than a path cut through the jungle covered mountains. US forces used all assets available to them to stop this flow of men and supplies from moving south into the war zone.

On 4 June 1967, Sgt. Di R. Ibanez had just arrived in Vietnam and was on his first reconnaissance combat patrol in country. He had been assigned as the assistant team leader of a 17-man, two-patrol mission during Operation Crockett. Their mission was to find a company size helicopter landing zone and a suitable area for a battalion-size command post. At 1645 hours, the two patrols, 4A1 and 4A2, were inserted by truck on the razorback hilltop that ran along the south side of Route 9, just to the northeast of Khe Sanh, Quang Tri Province, South Vietnam.

The two teams moved a short distance to a location where they could set up a night perimeter along a small cliff overlooking a river, and settled in for the night. Meanwhile it began to rain, and according to a team member, "It was just an absolute downpour. You could not see your hand in front of your face" due to the total darkness and rain. Further, the rain and rushing sound of the adjacent river muffled all others sounds.

During the night, a team member reported to the team leader after he completed his watch that he heard what he thought was an unnatural noise. In trying to describe it, he said, "I thought it sounded as though someone had been hit or punched in the stomach...over in the area where Ibanez was." The team member had crawled over to Di Ibanez's position to make sure he was still there, but was unable to locate him. He began groping around in the total darkness eventually locating Ibanez's rifle and gear including a pouch of grenades, but could not locate the sergeant. Thinking that Sgt. Ibanez had left his position to investigate the noise, the team member did not become alarmed until he later attempted to contact the assistant team leader to tell him it was his turn to stand watch.

At first light, the two team leaders examined the area. They found Di Ibanez's gear, rifle, a bag containing 25 fragmentation grenades and a Claymore mine that had been set out along the perimeter. Mysteriously, his rifle was on "automatic" - something very odd since recon Marines always kept their weapons on "Safe" unless they were prepared to fire it. Further, the Claymore had been turned around to explode towards the recon team rather than away from it. The team also found drag marks in the mud leading away from Di Ibanez's night defensive position. The results of the initial search were reported to the team's headquarters at Khe Sanh and Sgt. Ibanez was declared missing as of 0500 Hours.

A more extensive search of the immediate area revealed two abandoned NVA fortified positions, known as "harbor sites," recently occupied by the enemy. The smaller position was 50 meters east of the patrol's location and showed signs of recent use. It could hold three people. The larger one was 20 meters farther east of the first harbor site and could accommodate 8-10 people and it also showed signs of recent use. The two areas had flattened grass, were extremely well camouflaged, and were only a short distance away from the patrol. Other members of the patrol believe that by arriving late with insufficient time to fully secure their area of operation due to darkness, they may have encamped right in the midst of an NVA position without knowing it.

Company A, 1st Battalion,26th Marines arrived by truck to assist in a thorough search of an expanded area that included the trails and nearby villages of Lang Kat #1 and Lang Kat #2. The search teams determined both villages had been uninhabited for at least two months. During the extensive search, a cracked dental plate with blood stains on it along with some blood stained leaves was found. All of the material was collected and sent to DaNang for examination. The results of those tests confirmed the dental plate in fact belonged to Sgt. Ibanez and the blood stains matched his extremely rare blood type. At the time the formal search effort was terminated, Di Ibanez was listed Missing in Action.
The surviving members of the reconnaissance patrol and search party have questions regarding the fate of Sgt. Ibanez. One thing is certain according to one team member, "alive or dead, they've got him!"

If Di Ibanez died at the hands of the enemy, he has a right to have his remains returned to his family, friends and country. However, if he survived, his fate, like that of other Americans who remain unaccounted for in Southeast Asia, could be quite different. Either way, there is no question the Vietnamese could return him or his remains any time they had the desire to do so.

Since the end of the Vietnam War well over 21,000 reports of American prisoners, missing and otherwise unaccounted for have been received by our government. Many of these reports document LIVE American POWs remaining captive throughout Southeast Asia TODAY.

American military personnel in Vietnam were called upon to fight in many dangerous circumstances, and they were prepared to be wounded, killed or captured. It probably never occurred to them that they could be abandoned by the country they so proudly served.

Di Reyes Ibanez was a black-belt Karate expert who became Missing in Action during his first combat mission.